Doomsday Marathon: Doomsday (2008)

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Director: Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent)
Writer: Neil Marshall
Producers: Steven Paul, Benedict Carver
Starring: Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, Adrian Lester, David O’Hara, MyAnna Buring, Martin Compston
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 105 min

Badass, bloody, brutal, boatloads of fun, big bangs for your buck and oh yeah… Rhona Mitra. Four and a half stars may seem like quite a high score for such an inane concept of a film; and maybe it is but sometimes one has to take into account what a film is trying to accomplish. Doomsday accomplishes what it sets out to do and it does it extremely well.

In the near future a deadly, flesh eating virus has ravaged the UK and Scotland is completely quarantined and sealed off. Almost thirty years later, the virus somehow escapes quarantine and attacks London. The governement learns that there are still survivors within the quarantine area, naturally assuming that there is a cure for the virus, a special task force is sent into the quarantine zone to retrieve the cure; thus saving London.
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Doomsday Marathon: The Postman (1997)

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Director: Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves, Waterworld, Open Range)
Year: 1997
Novel: David Brin
Screenplay: Eric Roth, Brian Helgeland
Starring: Kevin Costner, Will Patton, Olivia Williams, Larenz Tate, Giovanni Ribisi
MPAA Rating: R
Duration: 177 min

When I signed on to help out with the “Doomsday Marathon” about a million different titles immediately spilled through my mind. The Postman was not one of them. However, once Waterworld and Thirteen Days were called upon and spoken for, I realized that it would be unacceptable to not include the trifecta of Doomsday scenarios starring Kevin Costner. It simply would not be complete without the Restored States of America Postal Service and Tom Petty. So I dusted off an old DVD of the movie (still in shrink wrap) that must’ve been one of the first I ever owned but never got around to watching. I did catch it in the theater way back in 1997, but those memories have long since faded. It’s got more than it’s fair share of weaknesses and was completely shit upon by critics and as I remember it, movie goers as well. But in general I remembered this as a solid little film of which I was genuinely baffled by the seething hate this thing got from almost everyone I knew. So was it the enjoyable little piece of apocalyptic fiction I remember it being? Well… yeah.

Synopsis: show content

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Doomsday Marathon: Le Temps du Loup

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An unnamed apocalypse lies at the center of Michael Haneke’s very underrated Time of The Wolf. The unnamed, and unexplained disaster (hinted at one point to have poisoned the water) only adds to the anxiety and dread that shrouds both the characters and eventually engulfs the audience by seriously fucking with expectations. The film begins not unlike his controversial 1997 film Funny Games, with a young bourgeois family (the so called ‘million dollar family:’ husband, wife, one boy, one girl) driving to their isolated cottage somewhere in rural France. They find, while unpacking their gear, another family holed up in their very-much-private property. The other family, like dark doppelgängers (and foreigners to boot) quickly lay waste to the idyllic nuclear family, dispatching Dad and leaving Mom and the children to fend for themselves in the harsh world.

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Doomsday Marathon: Quiet Earth

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Although small, my local video store growing up did stock Quiet Earth. I remember they shelved it in horror, alongside Sleepaway Camp and The Company of Wolves, a section at that point in my young life I was not willing to expose myself to. Over the years I have built up a mystique about the film based solely on the company it kept in this video store and the cover art that promised otherworldly experiences. Having finally watched the movie, I feel wronged somehow by the clerk that put this film in the horror section, and by the cover artist that rendered perhaps the single most deceptive cover image in the history of film marketing. But even more so I feel wronged by the people who made this travesty of cinema.

Quiet Earth is yet another take on the last man premise that Omega Man (previously in this marathon) stumbled upon. What if you were the only man on Earth, how would you cope, what would you do? Like Omega Man, the answer in Quiet Earth is fairly mundane, indulge in the finer things of life, transgress the old laws, go a bit crazy, and when the story demands it, find out that you are not the only person around, thus entering into a new phase of the fantasy: fucking the last woman on Earth. And just when you think it could not get any more obvious, in enters the ethnic strongman to finish off the soap opera love triangle.

Aspiring for a Twilight Zone vibe, the film takes no prisoners, situating us right into the odd shit. A full-frontally naked, middle-age balding man awakes in his bed. The clock has stopped at 6:13 marking the time of the anomaly that wiped most of mankind off the planet without a trace. Naked, the man walks around as his tackle bounces about a bit for the camera. The man is a scientist, and wouldn’t you know it, that may play an important part in the unraveling puzzle of what caused this strange occurrence. The man comes to realize the gravity of the situation and before long is talking to mannequins and wearing women’s clothing. The plot thickens. Would you like to know more…?

Doomsday Marathon: When Worlds Collide

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Many of the films in this series are post-apocalyptic, exploring the landscape of the world during or after a devastating nuclear attack or some other disaster that leaves the world as a wasteland. When Worlds Collide is largely pre-apocalyptic, concerning the preparations for a known upcoming disaster: a star hurtling on a collision course with Earth. In order to escape certain annihilation, a group of scientists gathers a team to build a spaceship which will hurtle a select few to the planet Zyra, orbiting the deadly star Bellus, a planet they hope can sustain life and give them a second chance.

In fact, the film is blatantly a retelling of the Biblical flood story, complete with doom-speakers foretelling the coming destruction and naysayers who scoff at the spaceship idea, and indeed disdain the very need for any escape plan whatever. It’s so blatant that the film opens on the Bible itself, a voiceover reading the words: “And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth…” Exactly what humanity has done this time that deserved God’s wrath is never stated, but since the film was made in 1951, it’s not too difficult to make some guesses. 1950s science fiction is nearly always a reflection of the contemporary geo-political climate, and by 1951 the world had survived a second World War, complete with racially-motivated genocide on top of the other horrors of war, as well as the release of the devastating power of nuclear bombs. The Cold War had already begun, instilling the fear of complete destruction of mankind by his own hands, even if God were not there to exact judgment for the global inhumanity exhibited in the 1940s.

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Doomsday Marathon: Hardware

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At first glance, Richard Stanley‘s cult science fiction film may seem like a cheap hybrid of Alien and The Terminator. It has a claustrophobic location in a grungy post apocalyptic world and it features a well-realized mechanical nightmare dispatching (with much gore) anything that comes in contact with it. What sets Hardware apart from these to films is tone. It riffs a lot more cynically on the nature for people (and societies) to destroy themselves indirectly; this world seems far more nihilistic and lacking in hope. While Stanley has an eye for capturing his vision in memorable images, much as Ridley Scott or James Cameron, perhaps more violently than either of those the above quite grisly films, he also does not make you want to root too much for his lead characters – or by extension, humanity.

Kicking off with a familiar 1980s post-apocalyptic ‘desert walker’ motif, only this time under a startlingly red filter, there is the uncovering some military junk, a robot head, first by the winds (of chance) then by the walker himself. The film establishes its tone perhaps more effectively with Iggy Pop’s DJ narrator gleefully relishing in how fucked up earth is after a series of wars and environmental disasters. To the films credit, this is not done in a blunt or explicit fashion, but simply with the panning of the skyline, the weather forecast and the playing of some hard-core industrial rock as a ‘golden oldie.’ Cut to outer-zone soldier, Moses (Dylan McDermontt), and his side-kick “Shades” (John Lynch) trekking around town (Los Angeles perhaps?) running errands before Christmas.

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Doomsday Marathon: On The Beach

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On The Beach

Year: 1959
Director: Stanley Kramer
Written by: John Paxton based on a novel by Nevil Shute
Starring: Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins
Duration: 129 min

On The Beach is a film that I randomly purchased as part of a cheap 10-film boxset, and to be honest I half expected never to watch it. There were better films in the set (Twelve Angry Men and The Apartment, two of my personal favourites), it looked like it would be very melodramatic and I’ve got far too many more interesting films in my collection that I’ve not got round to watching. However, when I was invited by the fine people at Row Three to contribute towards the site and was looking through the Doomsday Marathon listings for inspiration, it dawned on me. I had just the right DVD to review gathering dust in my overcrowded boxset section.

On The Beach, in content terms at least, is the ultimate doomsday film. It is, purely and simply, about the end of human life on Earth. The film is set in Australia, the last uncontaminated place on the planet after a global nuclear war. The plot basically follows a number of survivors gradually coming to terms with the fact that they will die within a matter of months. There is never any happy ending on the horizon, no last minute solution to the problem and no secret bunker or space-flight to safety. It may sound like I’m ruining the film, but you’d be a fool to expect anything else once you’ve got through the first half an hour or so.

As you’ve probably gathered, this is a pretty bleak film with a clear message. On The Beach was released in 1959 when the world was terrified of nuclear war and it’s horrific consequences. Dozens of films at the time tackled the issues of the Cold War and the atomic threat through thinly veiled metaphorical sci-fi plots such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Day The Earth Stood Still, but On The Beach went straight for the jugular and showed us what was going to happen if the worst came to the worst. It was surprisingly successful at the time, given the sombre tone, but then again it was a big budget film with an all star cast. It’s relatively forgotten these days though, I knew very little about it before I bought it, so the question is how does it hold up today?

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Review: Them!

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Them!


[Chris Edwards, who writes extensively about silent films on his blog, Silent Volume, has written the following review of Them!. To see the full programme click on the Doomsday header image above.]

The most important scene in THEM! has not a single giant ant in it. In fact, there’s no screaming, bold declarations or violent acts to be seen—just the quiet after-effects of all three. State troopers Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) and Ed Blackburn (Chris Drake) are searching ‘Gramps’ Johnson’s badly vandalized general store, located in the New Mexico desert, not far from where the Manhattan Project exploded its first atomic bomb, nine years before. Gramps is missing. The store has been half-demolished by something seemingly stronger than a man, and the cash register remains full. The cops step through the wreckage, baffled and silent, while behind them, Gramps’ radio cackles away. Malaria, the radio announcer declares, is being eradicated in many parts of the globe. Another victory for modern science.

Who wouldn’t encourage scientists to eradicate malaria—a disease that kills millions? The men and women working toward a vaccine must have the best of intentions. Likewise, the cops sifting through Gramps’ store are just professionals, doing their jobs. When they find Gramps’ mutilated corpse, flung to the bottom of his cellar steps, they report it. Neither jumps to conclusions, even though they’ve had a weird day already. Earlier, they found a catatonic five-year-old girl wandering the highway, clutching a doll with a broken face. They traced her back to a deserted travel trailer, destroyed much like the store. Would you like to know more…?

Doomsday Marathon: A Boy and His Dog

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[Special Thanks to Sean Dwyer for contributing this entry into the Doomsday Marathon, which is also currently published as a Forgotten Films Entry over at FilmJunk]
One of the lesser known classics of the genre, L.Q. Jones’ A Boy and His Dog, is based on the novella by Harlan Ellison. The movie takes place in the year 2024, after not one but two additional world wars have been initiated by humanity — the latter of which leaves the Earth devastated by nuclear missiles. As a result, a large part of the movie presents a familiar desert wasteland setting that has come to be associated with post-apocalyptic tales over the years.

A young, pre-Miami Vice Don Johnson stars as Vic, an 18-year-old nomad who lost his parents in the war and now must forage for food to survive. His only companion is a highly intelligent, telepathic dog named Blood… yes, that’s right, a telepathic dog.

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